One thing we discovered during our Scotland vacation is that the Scottish breakfast is not a myth — at least, not when one is staying at B&Bs.
Typical of our breakfasts were eggs made to order, sautéed mushrooms (one B&B even offered freshly-picked chanterelles, yum), what the Scots call “bacon” and I call ham, sausages, stewed tomatoes, black pudding (a blood sausage), and haggis (you don’t want to know). And that was just the cooked brekkie. There was also yogurt, fresh berries, toast, cereals, and porridge, along with juice, coffee, and real tea (i.e. tea made with loose leaves, not bags, and steeped in a pot, not in the cup). There were no mugs to be seen; only cups and saucers would do for the hot drinks.
We never got out of our lodgings before 09:30. More often it was well after ten. It’s impossible to have a ten-minute breakfast and hit the road when the spread looks like that, and who would want to? So breakfast became part of our social time, when we relaxed at the table and drank far too much tea (me) or coffee (one of our friends) while talking about what we wanted to do that day. It made me realize how unloved breakfast is in our house. All three of us eat at different times, so we eat alone and with no conversation. I’m the only one who takes real time at breakfast, because I’m the only one who cooks it (oatmeal every day, yessir!).
Perhaps it’s time to start a new weekend tradition.
A note regarding haggis: I arrived in Scotland carrying a prejudice against the stuff, based solely on the ingredients. But after trying some, I was converted. It’s delicious! We had it every day, and one of my favorite evening meals was Balmoral Chicken, which is chicken stuffed with haggis. There’s some lesson in there about judging a book by its cover…
We found that hamburgers were a common feature on lunch and dinner menus, but the Scots seem to define that dish differently than Americans do. Of the three times I tried a burger — usually because it was the cheapest thing on the menu — one was a horror, one tasted weird-but-not-bad but had the texture all wrong (soft and mealy), and one was delicious but impossible to eat without destroying it. Here’s the last one:
Not even Dagwood could get his mouth around that. We didn’t have a prayer. We thought we could eat the onion rings first and thus reduce the burger to something manageable, but the bottom ring was acting as a reservoir, holding in melted cheese and a sauce of some sort. Then we tried squashing the remainder as flat as we could, but it was still too thick. So we ended up cutting it into pieces, like parents do when they take their toddlers to the restaurant. Given the fact that this burger is served on a wooden cutting board, I’m guessing that’s the usual method. However, the meat patty itself was fantastic — better termed a steak, actually — and the accompanying sweet chili chutney was divine.
Two of our group went to Scotland eager to try the whiskies, but I was all about the gins, since one of my favorite gins is Scottish. (The marvelous Hendricks, of course.) We did indeed find another winner, but alas, it’s a regional, artisanal gin made in tiny batches.
NB stands for North Berwick, the village where NB Gin is produced. It’s a crisp, clean gin that made my mouth happy, and we were very sorry not to bring a bottle home with us. Damn the airlines and their stupid liquid policy. One wonders just how much business distilleries and vineyards have lost due to tourists not being able to take a bottle or two home.
I guess we’ll just have to go back.